Welcome in our garden
Out from my parents’ kitchen window is a view that rivals that from any naturalist’s hide.
Just steps away perched up high in the porch’s climbing rose is a blackbird’s nest. The babies, half grown, sit with mouths agape partly due to hunger, but also in an attempt to cool off under the hot plastic roofing. Their attentive parents have developed nifty ways of flying under and up to come and go from their nest and avoid humans sitting on the deck below.
It nearly wasn’t to be, with the first nest-building attempt by the husband rejected by the female as she inspected his efforts one day. In disgust, he later came back and furiously tore the whole thing apart.
My father gave a hand and nailed a timber platform complete with carpet for grip and installed a wooden sun-shade. The pair once again built a nest which was quickly filled with a clutch of eggs. Despite the sun-shade not being quite big enough, the family are thriving, safe from cats, with a garden supplying look- out points from the trees and plenty of worms.
Birds are a great joy and useful friend in the garden, even though they may scratch up seeds, eat fruit and poo on outdoor furniture.
A simple feeder of a slice of timber hung near a window makes an interesting live show as different birds come to eat the scraps offered to them – just don’t feed them cake, as they might develop a taste and like my parents’ long-term resident blackbird, swoop inside and help themselves off the table.
Providing bird nesting houses is a good way to encourage birds into your garden and starling boxes can be nailed to trees and fence tops where cats are unlikely to reach them. During summer a bird bath can become a hub for bird life in your garden – like a water-cooler in an office is for humans – everyone congregates there for refreshment and social contact.
A bath can be as simple as a hollowed out log placed on a table.
If you do come across a bird’s nest in your garden, be wary about approaching it. A scared-off parent bird may not come back and young chicks, left alone, will die. Once fledglings of blackbird and thrush leave the nest, they live on the ground for a while, scuttling in the undergrowth while their parents continue to feed them.
It is at this time they are most vulnerable to predator attack and easily fall prey to cats and dogs. A bell on a cat’s collar can help warn of approaching danger.
Thrush are a welcome songbird as is the tiny grey warbler which can sometimes be observed preening and emitting its silvery-bells song. If you are fortunate to have fantails and silvereyes in your garden, then providing them with dense shrubbery is a good way to encourage them to nest. Silvereye will repay you by picking caterpillars and other insects from your vegetables in summer.
Hungry: Blackbird fledglings await their next instalment of worms.